With a performance from Minnesota’s own Keith Secola, an award-winning and internationally recognized Native Americana artist, and a variety of other local Native musicians, The Cedar’s Mni Sota (mini show tah) Native Music Series will showcase the breadth and depth of the local Native music scene. 

The series premieres with a Keith Secola performance on July 8, then features The Wake Singers on July 15, Corey Medina & Brothers on July 23, and concludes with an artist showcase hosted by Secola himself on July 29. The final showcase highlights Annie Humphrey, Dana Thompson, The Pretendians, Bluedog. The Cedar is hosting these virtual performances through the Cedar Public Access Channel, an online content stream providing a platform to artists and educational/entertainment experiences through their Facebook and Youtube.

The idea for the series sprouted in 2020 when Alex Buffalohead, a local musician and arts and cultural engagement manager of the Native American Community Development Institute and All My Relations Arts, began her project for The Cedar’s Artist Collective. Through her project, she organized conversations with local musicians and friends, and introduced artists to the higher-ups of the center.  

“I just wanted us to have conversations and give feedback directly to The Cedar, for them to hear directly from Native musicians and people in the Twin Cities,” Buffalohead explained. “And it just happened that Keith was one of the artists that we interviewed, and then Corey Medina, and Michael from The Wake Singers.” 

The Artist Collective project concluded, and an opportunity to curate the Mni Sota Native Music Series arose for Buffalohead and Secola, who wanted to collaborate for this initiative. 

The project had originally been slated for May to commemorate American Indian Month in Minnesota. “Then we thought, well, everyday can be Native day. So it’s just another reason to celebrate Native culture and Native music,” Buffalohead says of the July dates. 

Native culture—and Native music—is far too expansive and complex to be minimized into a commemorative month or day of recognition. The Native Music Series will exemplify the power of these songs and Native culture, while also introducing listeners to bands and music they may not come across on a mainstream radio station. 

“They’re philosophical, they’re spiritual, and they’re metaphysical, and so they kind of touch on all these levels without preaching or pointing fingers,” Secola says of Native songs. “For Native artists, Native musicians, and songwriters, we have two approaches to songwriting: one is to lead people gently to the brutal truth, you let them metaphysically come to their own discovery, which I think is the way anyways; or we can just kick them in the shins with it and after they’re done ‘ouching’ they say, ‘Oh yeah, I can see it.’”

When asked about his genre of music, Secola answered by fingerpicking a Native Americana song on his guitar. Native Americana, he said, is “part of the past and part of the future, but it’s definitely in the present tense—and it’s vital.”   

One particular song of Secola’s that has made waves since its release in 1992 is NDN Kars, his account of being a Native in the United States. Since its release, it’s been the most requested song on tribal radio. Throughout Secola’s travels, he’s turned on the radio—in Florida, Colorado, Denmark, and Vienna of all places—and has heard the song played in different pockets of the world. 

Buffalohead has hopes that the series will shine a light on local talents and garner new fans for each performer. She also believes the series will showcase the diversity from all the different Native nations these musicians come from, reminding the public that this Native art form is here to stay, that it has been here, and it is going strong. 

“We’re still here,” Secola says. “And we never really left. It’s time to discover the talent.”